The Harley Awards at New York Comic Con was one of the most interesting and exclusive events of the entire convention.
For those who do not know they are considered one of the major comics awards in the United States and will now be presented by ReedPOP at New York Comic Con, the sponsor this year was comiXology where many great comics including manga from around the world can be found.
This was a special gala event only open to a limited number of comics professionals in its opening year, it was still quite packed though.
There were two major exhibitions at the gala, one was the art of Harvey Kurtzman and the other was the art of Hiro Mashima who was receiving a special award at the Harvey Awards. Hiro Mashima is a mangaka and the creator of multiple popular mangas the most recent being the global hit Fairy Tail.
The art on the walls was a big draw for all the pros in attendance.
The Harvey Awards was something really interesting for Fairy Tail because it introduced the art of Fairy Tail to comics insiders and pros who may have known about Fairy Tail’s success in the market but have never really gotten a look at the art aside from some the covers shown in the reports. This art was shown alongside classic Harvey Kutzman art that most people in attendance did know very well. Several at the reception had personally worked with and known Kurtzman for many years such as Denis Kitchen.
It was a combination of two somewhat separate but increasingly interconnected realms of fandom, the American comics (and comics history) and Japanese manga. There is interaction at the award shows but in my experience there has not been a gala exhibit and reception like this before where the art could be seen in such a setting. Now of course it is possible to see the art on the show floor, but many pros (myself included) are quite busy and are not always able to come visit other booths around the show floor, especially if they are working the booths/exhibits themselves. This can sometimes make it harder to see media and comics that can be out of their experience. Though done like this where it is after the main business hours might be something that would be pretty awesome to continue and also have happen at other cons. For some these can be 24 hours open art displays at the host hotels.
To several of the pros who were there I actually explaining what was happening in some of the panels to them. Like I wrote they knew about knew about Fairy Tail as a manga but never read, watched, or experienced it. I also recommended the dub on Hulu from Funimation for them to learn more about the series. Most of the people in attendance did not have Crunchyroll or FunimationNow memberships and probably do not watch anime subs but they do Hulu memberships and would watch dubs, and a few said they would now check out Fairy Tail because they were captivated by the art and by Hiro Mashima himself.
There were various comics legends in attendance such as Joe Staton, Paul Levitz, Denis Kitchen, and others. Multiple major pop culture journalists were also in attendance such as Jill Pantozzi, Calvin Reed of Publishers Weekly, Heidi MacDonald of The Beat, and Rob Salkowitz of Forbes among others.
There were two awards given one was to Adam Kubert and the other to Hiro Mashima. Nellie Kurtzman (the granddaughter of Harvey Kurtzman) was introducing the event with ReedPOP staff including SVP Lance Fensterman.
After graciously accepting his award and speaking of his appreciation for the art of Kurtzman and his award he began to network and talk with the other comics pros.
Just as with fans Mashima loved to talk with the other comics pros (through the help of Misaki Kido who was continuing to translate [as she had all weekend]) and there was discussion of comics, pop culture and of things to visit in New York as well as what pizza he should get that was close in Midtown. The consensus was NY Pizza Suprema (which has great pizza).
It was really great to see the American comics luminaries talk and experience Fairy Tail and things with Hiro Mashima. It’s something that would not be expected because the those in American comics and those in manga rarely cross, but this is changing.
The discussions happening here were really special because is the beginning of something a larger part of connection and cultural exchange and discussion of things inside pop culture. Pop culture and the love it of it, as well the art inspired by and a part of it, is universal. Translations (and translators) bridge the language barriers and allow us to share and celebrate the art.